Ever Wanted to Go Vegetarian? Now's the Time as Beef, Pork Prices Soar

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Photo by Cgoodwin
Santa Gertrudis beef cows graze on King Ranch in Texas
Thanks to a drought across much of the major cattle-ranching states and a deadly pig virus, we may soon be doing what those pesky Chick-fil-A cows are always encouraging on the billboards: "Eat mor chikin." Or veggies. Or tofu.

The United States Department of Agriculture reports that beef prices are the highest they've been since 1987, and pork prices are up 13 percent from last year, just in time for the start of grilling season nationwide.

David Anderson, a professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M University, tells NPR that the reason behind higher-than-average increases in beef costs is in large part drought, particularly in Texas, the nation's largest producer of beef cattle. Drought leads to fewer feed crops, which leads to fewer cows. Coupled with an increase in demand for American beef in China, we're looking at a small supply and big prices.

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City Hall Farmers Market to Relocate in May

Categories: Market Watch, News

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
The City Hall Farmers Market will move to a new location in the first week of May.
The City Hall Farmers Market must relocate during the first week of May, a change forced by a plumbing project to be carried out on the Reflection Pond at City Hall. The construction is set to begin on May 1, so the market will be heading down the street and around the corner to the front of the Julia Ideson Building of the Houston Public Library at 550 McKinney Street. The market will extend into the Houston Public Library's plaza.

Don't freak out when you head to City Hall for lunch on Wednesday, May 7, and don't see any food trucks or vendors. The market isn't gone, it has simply moved. Tyler Horne, market manager at Urban Harvest, says there won't be much change to the market, just the layout and location.


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Your Guide to Spring Produce in Houston

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Photo by whitneyinchicago
Top delicate pastry tartlets with fresh in-season blueberries.
Although the weather has been hot and cold during the past several weeks (I think it listens to Katy Perry wayyy too much), the spring season has arrived. And with it comes an array of new fruits, vegetables and herbs for you to cook with and eat.

Say goodbye to the heavy winter squashes like butternut, acorn and pumpkin, and say hello to a whole new array of bright and vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables.

We spoke with Tyler Horne, market manager at Urban Harvest Farmers Market, about the spring produce available now and in the coming months at the farmers markets in Houston. After a few freezes and frosts this winter, as well as a recent week of rainy days, many farmers are bringing the first wave of their spring harvest to the markets.

"The rain is pretty much needed right now," Horne says. "It's the time of year that we really need it so the farms get everything planted...These frosts have pushed the harvest dates two weeks later than they normally are. They got all of these late-season frosts, and so the farmers were having a hard time keeping up. So, tomatoes are in the ground later than they really should be. A lot of the peaches won't be here because they got such a bad freeze. My poor farmer that grows tomatoes ended up putting them in the ground and lost a ton of plants; he didn't expect to have a hard freeze."

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Ordering Truffles Out of Season

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Photo by Wazouille
The black truffle, when ripe, should have signature white veins running throughout.
"Don't order anything with truffles," my friend said during a recent dinner at an upscale restaurant in town. "It's not truffle season any more. It won't be worth it."

I had, of course, heard the phrase "truffle season" before, particularly in reference to the expensive Alba white truffles, which achieve peak ripeness in October and November and are rarely served outside of those months. But when ordering truffles at a fancy restaurant, I rarely think about them in the same way that I might asparagus or green beans or berries. Truffles look like rocks and smell like an alluring mixture of mushrooms and earth. They're a fungus. How can they not be in season?

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City Hall Farmers' Market Returns on Wednesday With Celebrity Cooking Demonstration

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Get some lunch at the City Hall Farmers' Market on Wednesday beginning at 11 a.m.
The spring farmers' market season is here. On Wednesday, February 19, Urban Harvest's City Hall Farmers' Market returns, kicking off at 11 a.m. The market will include most of the vendors from the previous season, including Angela's Oven, Blackbird Foods, Melange Creperie and Sinfull Bakery, to name just a few.

Tyler Horne, market manager for the Saturday Eastside Street and Wednesday City Hall farmers' markets, says Simply Delicious will also return this season.

"They are one of our popular vendors," he says. "She does sort of like an inspired take on the traditional banh mi sandwich. Her name is Dawn Burrell. She is cool."

Horne is also excited to announce the return of a fan-favorite vendor, the Eatsie Boys, as well as an exciting demonstration with Underbelly's Chris Shepherd and Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing.

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Woodlands Market Hubbell & Hudson to Close

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Photo courtesy Hubbell & Hudson
The gourmet market at Hubbell & Hudson will be closing in the next few months.
A beloved market in the Woodlands will soon leave residents without nearby access to dry-aged beef, farm-to-market produce and cooking classes -- at least until Whole Foods opens there in 2015.

Hubbell & Hudson market and cooking school will be closing, reported CultureMap's Eric Sandler, after rumors started swirling on Facebook over the weekend. Though the bistro and kitchen will remain open, Sander writes that the rest of the venture will be closed by March 12, if not sooner. An unnamed source provided CultureMap with documents proving the grocery store has lost millions since it opened, and consultants for the company did not believe it could compete with Whole Foods or nearby H-E-Bs.


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Five 2013 Food Trends We'd Like to See Alive and Well in 2014

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Photo by Brooke Viggiano
We'd definitely like to see more of this in 2014.
Not all food trends are annoying, and though we know "to each his/her own" is a good rule by which to live, there are a few gems out there in the food world that we cannot wait to see more of.

Here are Five 2013 Food Trends That We Hope Stick Around in 2014:

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Poor Pecan Crop and Consumption in China May Mean an Increase in Prices This Year

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Photo from the USDA
Want pecans for your pie this Thanksgiving? Don't wait to buy them!
No matter how you say it -- pee-khan, pi-khan, pee-can or any other variation -- the price of pecans is going up.

The increase may not be seen on grocery store shelves just yet, but a number of contributing factors mean that your pecan pies will likely be a little more expensive this holiday season. But here in Texas, we need our pecan pie. In addition to the pecan tree being our state tree and the pecan being our state nut, earlier this year the Texas House of Representatives named pecan pie our state pie. So this is a big deal.

According to Forbes, the peak price for pecans in December 2012 was a little more than $2 per pound. Pecans are an alternate-bearing crop, meaning they have a good crop one year followed by a poor crop another year. Last year was an on year, with a huge bumper crop being harvested.

This year, growers are facing a low yield due to the pecan trees' yearly cycle as well as issues stemming from last year's drought, a late-spring freeze and increased demand for pecans in China. These factors have caused estimates of prices to be in the $9 to $11 per pound range for shelled pecans beginning in late November.

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City Hall Farmers' Market Returns with Eight New Vendors

Categories: Market Watch

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
The City Hall Farmers' Market is held in the shadow of the Houston City Hall.
The City Hall Farmers' Market reopened on September 20, and this week I went to see what its eight new vendors are offering, as well as what the regulars have in store for shoppers this year.

The market boasts more than 35 vendors, many of which are organizations looking to spread the word about their work in the community and recruit volunteers or collect donations. There are a few produce stands, and several booths offer items such as essential oils or goats'-milk products. The majority of the vendors, however, sell prepared foods.

The location is part of what sets City Hall Farmers' Market apart from other markets in and around Houston. Because it sets up on the grounds of City Hall, its audience is professionals who work downtown and are looking to get out of the office for a quick bite during lunch break. The market is open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., on Wednesdays only.

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2013 Houston Fall Produce Guide: What To Buy & When To Buy It

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Graphic by Monica Fuentes
Check out our fall produce guide to see which fruits and vegetables will be available in the coming months.
Say goodbye to summer squash, watermelon, tomatoes and cucumbers, and say hello to pumpkins, winter squash, citrus and dark leafy greens.

Fall is here, and that means it's time to begin using season-appropriate fruits and vegetables. As Houstonians we are fortunate, because there's a lot of great produce being grown on Texas farms. And now is the time to buy the bounty: sweet potatoes for your casserole, pears for your tart, and much more. With assistance from Urban Harvest Market managers Tyler Horne and Libby Kennedy and the Kirby Whole Foods Market's Andrew DeYoung and Charles Perez, we have created a guide to show you which produce will be in season this fall and when you can expect to buy it.

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